Gaiman, Neil: (201.5) “The Monarch of the Glen”

Gaiman’s story in Legends II, “The Monarch of the Glen,” is set in the universe of American Gods. Shadow finds himself in Scotland, hired to bodyguard a party against gatecrashers, by a little doctor who calls him a monster and tells him, “I am something of a monster myself. Like calls to like. We are all monsters, are we not? Glorious monsters, shambling through the swamps of unreason . . . “

Yes, we’re in a monster story of a sort, a sort that is probably transparently obvious to everyone who isn’t me. I took much too long to figure out what was going on, partly because my background in some literary traditions is sketchy, and partly because I read this late at night while suffering from insomnia. For me, my principal impression of the story is that I still can’t get into Shadow’s point-of-view. Interesting things happen around him, but as a character he continues to slip through my fingers: which, yes, may well be the point, but I find it frustrating to a degree that overcomes my fondness for difficult narrators.

At the end Shadow decides to go back to America. I’ll read the stories to come about this, but again, I’ll dial my expectations way down, having determined that my problems with Shadow extend past the setup of American Gods.

Trivia note: we learn what name is on Shadow’s birth certificate in this story, which knowledgeable readers will have guessed already.

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  1. Since I really only wanted to read one of the stories in the Legends II anthology, I confess I cheated and read it in the bookstore. (it was “The Sworn Sword,” which I thought was decent but not nearly as good as the first Dunk and Egg story). Now that you mention it, though, maybe if I see this in the library one day, I might trouble myself to read both the Gabaldon and the Gaiman stories. Probably not the McCaffrey or Brooks stories, though….

  2. I think if you only want one, you’re permitted. Chad will probably read more than the ones I did. I’m interested to see how much faster other people pick up on what story we’re in, in the Gaiman–much, I’m sure.

  3. I just read the Gaiman story, and I didn’t know what the story was until the last page, and I kept thinking all the while that I was being very thick.

    Shadow has no personality. None. NONE. This ruined AMERICAN GODS for me.

  4. Oh thank you–I feel so much better now.

    And Shadow’s personality, or lack thereof, was a big part of why _American Gods_ didn’t work for me–I wanted me to be mad and he just sat there and refused to be.

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